As the Vassar Student Association (VSA) eases into the Spring 2023 session, a constitutional restructure, approved last semester, will implement a number of changes in the coming Fall semester. The changes are based primarily on Goal 1 of the Strategic Plan: to streamline the Association’s operations. The large size of the VSA underpinned Goal 1 in comparison to analogous student associations at peer colleges, to which structural problems at the VSA have been attributed, according to VSA Vice President Joe Mangan.
The Miscellany News obtained thorough and extensive written commentary on the restructure from Mangan, who described the constitutional updates as three years in the making. “It started in early 2020, with the Vassar Student Union…A series of Student Union interest meetings with almost one hundred attendees at each collected significant feedback related to how the VSA and the broader College operated and, during the impeachment scandal that year, we (Julián and I) attempted to pass a reform in part reflecting that feedback—which failed.”
A successive attempt the following fall was similarly unsuccessful, although the Executive Board impeachment scandal of Spring 2021 enabled the reinstallation of the Judicial Board. Even so, as Mangan described, attempts at critically examining the internal structure of the VSA were routinely foiled. Then came the Strategic Plan in 2022, which recommended a reduction in the size of the VSA, enabling fewer positions, more competitive elections and greater opportunity for payment of members.
“Low structural awareness was broadly taken as a reflection of VSA’s sprawling size,” Mangan explained. “105 people are in some way directly involved in running the VSA, in varying ways, a reality which is often overwhelming to explain and often translates into confusion.”
So, Mangan and Aguilar spent most of the past semester conversing with every VSA Senator and with members of Residential Life. “[W]e hosted a student-wide Town Hall to solicit input. Meanwhile, the Operations Committee has been working tirelessly to develop our new Constitution and Bylaws,” Mangan described. He continued: “Seeing the 28-1-1 vote in favor of these documents in the Senate was incredibly cathartic for Julián and I, as we have spent so much energy and time here at Vassar trying to implement these changes.”
The administration has expressed approval for the ability of the VSA to work through operational challenges in a democratic fashion. Dean of the College Carlos Alamo-Pastrana said in a written statement, “The VSA worked extremely hard on the constitutional restructuring to ensure that its current practices and procedures work best for students and provide sound governance. I admire how the VSA undertook this process in ways that were thoughtful and inclusive of different voices and that were also open to rethinking some of their initially proposed ideas.”
Alamo also discussed the positive relationship between the administration and the VSA, saying, “The relationship between the administration and the VSA is strong and productive. We meet regularly through various channels, especially committees that are a part of the college governance. More personally, I have appreciated how the VSA continuously pushes us to consider how we can better support our students and where we can continue to improve.”
Senator Charlie From ’25 shared their feelings toward the restructure. “Personally, I’m very happy with the restructure. This was a rare moment where we got the chance to cut down the size of the student government which will hopefully make everything run smoother, allowing for the VSA to focus on a few priorities rather than wallowing in a mass of bureaucracy,” they said in a written correspondence.
From also believes the restructuring began as an opportunity to increase the level of equity in student government at Vassar. They went on, “I also think this restructure will incentivize more participation from low-income students, since now we have more freedom to pay historically unpaid VSA positions.” The restructuring will implement the changes in the new 155th VSA Session, to begin in Fall 2023.